Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Hope Humphreys (DP169)

1. When I gave written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) in 2002 I felt I was playing my part in the democratic process and having my opinions, based on personal experience, read and considered. I was very pleased to be invited to give oral evidence. It seemed that I was given a chance to make some kind of difference.

2. I was listened to, as were many others, and HASC came up with recommendations that could begin to undo some of the damage caused by our Drug Laws. The final recommendation, signed by the present Prime Minister, Number 24: was “We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways—including the possibility of legalisation and regulation—to tackle the global drugs dilemma (Paragraph 267).” That was 10 years ago and no such recommendation has been undertaken.

3. My submission will concentrate on the on the last paragraph “whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, etc.”

1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 “Whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, as recommended by the Select Committee in 2002 (The Government’s Drugs Policy: Is It Working?, HC 318, 2001–02) and the Justice Committee’s 2010 Report on justice reinvestment (Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94, 2009–10).”

1.2 Executive Summary

1.2.1 I have chosen to concentrate on this item because nothing constructive can be achieved to reduce the harm caused by drugs until their supply is brought under reasonable legal control and drug use is treated as a health and social problem completely removed from the Criminal Justice System.

1.3 Brief Introduction

1.3.1 I have been campaigning with my husband Mick Humphreys, since 1995 for changes in our Drug Laws which are not fit for purpose.

1.3.2 We have both been members of Transforms Drug Policy Foundation (TDPF) since it was founded, and support their aims completely independently.

1.4 Factual Information

1.5 Drug supply remains firmly in the hands of criminals

1.5.1 This means that there is no control of their strength and purity. Illegal drugs are far too dangerous to be left in the hands of criminals and as we know that many young people will experiment with drugs it is irresponsible for to allow this to continue.

1.6 Illegality of drugs hampers debate

1.6.1 We want to educate about the dangers of drugs but because they are illegal it gets in the way of honest debate. Responsible adults are not going to risk being caught saying that getting drunk can be more dangerous that taking ecstasy, or that smoking 20 cigarettes a day is worse than smoking a joint. They cannot be seen to be recommending an illegal substance so they don’t tell the truth and our well informed youth stop listening. Our laws do not allow us to behave responsibly.

1.7 Criminalising our Young

1.7.1 Most young people will experiment with drugs, and many will share them with friends. To them this is like getting a round of drinks. To the law they are drug dealers that belong in prison. Our laws are a blunt instrument that endangers the futures of our young more than the drugs do. All sorts of lifelong restrictions are put on those unlucky enough to be caught by our Draconian laws. As responsible adults we want to protect young people. Our drug laws do not allow us to.

1.8 Waste of Money

1.8.1 We spend so much money enforcing the drug laws that there is little left to educate or help those afflicted by drugs. Prisons are full of problem drug users but if drugs were taken out of the Criminal Justice System, these people would have more chance of getting treatment and rehabilitation.

1.9 Cowardice of Government

1.9.1 If any “detailed consideration ought to be given to alternate ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, etc” as recommended by HASC in 2002, the biggest difficulty will be the co-operation of the Government. The Government has shown itself to be terrified by the press, especially The Daily Mail, and has so far refused to have any sensible debate on decimalisation of drugs. MPs in general are more worried about getting re-elected than putting their heads above the parapet on such an emotive issue. You do get a few brave ones like Paul Flynn who are willing to speak out putting honesty and evidence as the main priority in his arguments, but sadly they are very rare.

1.10 Widespread Hypocrisy

1.10.1 Hypocrisy on the drug issue is not confined to the Government, nor just to GB but widespread. How many MPs or members of the Government have tried illegal drugs? How many American Presidents have tried illegal drugs? Some may have even enjoyed them, because the truth is they can be fun, and used sensibly are no more dangerous than any other pleasurable things. That is precisely why they are so popular. But do you hear many people who actually have the power to make a difference tell the truth about these things? The truth is not what matters to them. To be seen to be “tough on drugs”, to “win the war” on drugs is what they care about, or pretend to care about.

2. Forward Thinking

2.1.1. In the 10 years since the last HASC report a lot has happened. Switzerland has provided clean heroin and safe injecting rooms to addicts, which has reduced crime and deaths from overdoses dramatically. Portugal and several other European countries have decriminalised possession of drugs for personal use with no negative effects. And in Mexico about 5,000 people have been killed in the last five years by rival drug cartels because, while drugs remain illegal, huge fortunes can be made. Public opinion is way ahead of what the law makers are advocating. Many people now agree that the so called “War on Drugs” was lost long ago. More and more public figures are speaking out for change, for instance, highly respected business men like Richard Branson. It’s time now for the Government to do some forward thinking and put aside all their fears and prejudices and look at the facts, and act on them.

3. Recommendation

3.1.1. When detailed consideration has been given to alternate ways of tackling the drugs dilemma there will have to be changes. These changes will save money, empty prisons, and above all save lives. The other points in the HASC inquiry into drugs are all important but are hampered by the fact that while drugs supply remains in the hands of criminals and we continue to have criminal sanctions against drugs there can’t be any logical solution. It’s fiddling while Rome is burning. It is not good enough to have learned expert committees, every 10 years or so, making great pronouncements and then moving onto the next thing leaving the mayhem to continue. After all the talking there has to be action.

February 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012